As you’ll see in the “To Write Love on Her Arms” movie, TWLOHA started with a story. The story was Renee’s, and it was one of brokenness and addiction. But Renee realized all those years ago, as you’ll see in the movie, that hope and healing can be found in honest community. It is this desire for honesty that has always been at the core of what we do at TWLOHA.
Today we invite you to be honest. We hope you’ll use this discussion guide to start a conversation at home, with your friends, and in your community about the issues and themes you’ll see in this movie. We hope this movie and the story it is based on inspire you to talk about things that matter. We hope it helps you believe that things can change, that better days might be ahead.
How Language Perpetuates Stigma
There are examples throughout the movie in which one character belittles another using harmful, insensitive, or triggering phrases. One instance is when Jessie refers to Renee’s self-injury scars as “pity scars.”
What does that type of language convey about the issues in the movie?
What does it communicate to the person who is struggling?
When you’re struggling, what words do you want people to say to you? When you speak to someone else who might be struggling, what words will you use?
“Secrets Make Us Sick”
The phrase “secrets make us sick” is used several times throughout the movie.
What do you think this phrase means?
How can we make sure that our secrets don’t make us sick?
Why Community Matters
In the movie, Renee transitions from having unhealthy relationships to finding a healthy community of people to support her during treatment and recovery.
What does a healthy community look like to you?
Who makes up your community?
Why do we need to set boundaries in situations when a loved one is struggling?
How do we show others compassion while making our own health a priority?
Asking for Help
There are several scenes in the movie where Renee is actively struggling with something but doesn’t ask for help.
Why is it sometimes hard to ask for help?
What keeps you from asking for help when you need it? How can you change that?
How would you ask for help if you needed it?
Who can you turn to for help?
Recovery and Relapse
Near the end of the movie, Renee goes back to David’s apartment to find that he has relapsed.
Why would David hide the fact that he is struggling?
What does this say about the shame associated with relapse and asking for help?
Sharing Your Story
TWLOHA is born from the surprising response to Renee’s story. The honesty in her story seems to give other people permission to be honest.
Who have you shared your story with?
Why did you decide to share part of your story with these people?
How do you make sure you are sharing your story in a healthy way?